Wednesday, February 02, 2011

Return of Pugsley

I wanted to go for a ride this evening, but I had a lot of reasons why I should not. It's my last week to train and test running gear before I need to taper for the Susitna 100. It seems lately every time I go for a ride longer than my commute, my angry knee flares up. There wasn't enough new snow to cover up all the glare ice on the trails. I wanted to meet up with my friend Bill for dinner. And I caught a cold; my throat was sore, my ears were clogged and my sinuses were all gummed up. Oh, and it was -6 degrees outside.

But as I prepared for my commute to work, I grabbed my snow bike, Pugsley, anyway. The frigid air slapped me like an angry friend and the wheels seemed glued to the snow. I had neglected to add air to the tires, and they were down to 6 psi or less. I pedaled as hard as I could but still the bike moved like it was towing a truck. I forgot about the cold and concentrated on how much my legs and lungs hurt. My commute to work is 2.5 miles, and flat. "I can't ride tonight like this," I thought.

As the day wore on, I frequently walked past the windows to the courtyard and glanced at Pugsley tethered to a frost-coated pole with a pink cable lock. He looked like a puppy dog waiting patiently for me to come outside. I realized that Pugsley and I hadn't gone for a ride in weeks. In fact, we hadn't gone for a ride since Dec. 31, which meant I had yet to take Pugsley out in the calendar year 2011 - and it's February. Guilt washed over me. Not because I really think my bike has feelings, but because I'm also supposed to be training for the White Mountains 100, which is less than 7 weeks away. "I guess I can muster up some kind of ride tonight," I thought.

The air was calm and cold at 5 p.m., but the sunset cast the mountains in a warm light. Trails were covered in a thin layer of snow, but it was hard-packed and faster than expected. I had aired up the tires and raised the seatpost to counteract my angry knee feeling, and the results were amazing. Instead of grinding along a flat river trail, I was able to power up steep hills and fly along the flats. I wended through the forest on tight singletrack and sweat profusely as I cranked up the soft-packed snow along the upper reaches of the mountain. By the time I reached Mount Sentinel's summit, my balaclava was encased in clear ice and my smile was as wide as the sprawling city lights stretched out in front of me. Behind me await a long descent, fast and frigid and euphorically exhilarating. I had nearly forgotten what that felt like, to coast free.

Oh, Pugsley. Yes I did miss you.